With the 2020 season now at a close, the players from 2017 NFL Draft class have officially played out their first NFL contracts. Taking a look back and evaluating the overall production, it’s safe to say the Pittsburgh Steelers were certainly very successful with theirs. But folks, this is the offseason! It’s a time for speculation, wishes, and “what if’s” from fans everywhere just starving for some football action. So that got me thinking. If the Steelers COULD go back and re-do their 2017 draft, do you think they would? And how different would it look? And why? Well, in this re-draft of Pittsburgh’s 2017 class, we’re going to have the luxury of hindsight. Of course we’ll try to keep it as realistic as possible. So with the new picks, I’ll only be able to select from players that were still available when the Steelers made their selection at that given pick. Now with that being said, despite it being a successful draft, I think this class would look much different.
(R1, P30) – The actual pick: EDGE TJ Watt
The new pick: EDGE TJ Watt
This selection obviously stays the same. 3 Pro Bowls, 2 First Team All Pro Selections, and the reigning NFL sack leader. Watt was an absolute slam dunk at pick 30 and was one of the biggest steals in the opening round. Not only is TJ Watt one of the best defensive players in all of football, but he’s on a blazing path to becoming one of the most prolific defenders in Steelers history. After back to back seasons of barely missing out on DPOY, the best is even yet to come for Watt. In a complete re-draft, he would be long gone before the Steelers could even say hi to him.
(R2, P62) – The actual pick: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
The new pick: RB Alvin Kamara (R3, P67)
Don’t kill me, Steeler Nation. Just hear me out. This isn’t a shot at JuJu. He’s a great football player and this was still a great pick. Since being taken in the second round, he has been setting several records in the process while becoming one of the more polarizing players in the league. But you’ll see why I went this direction in a little. Alvin Kamara is special. He’s made the Pro Bowl every year since being drafted, and he just might be the best/most explosive running back in the entire National Football League. He’s a guy that does everything at an elite level. And because for this article we have the luxury of hindsight, Kamara’s value here with this pick is justified.
(R3, P93) – The actual pick: DB Cam Sutton
The new pick: WR Kenny Golladay (R3, P96)
And here’s why. In this re-draft, the Steelers don’t get their good JuJu, but they do still land a great WR in Kenny Golladay. Again, this is not a shot at Sutton who is one of my absolute favorite players on the Steelers roster. But before Golladay missed nearly the entire season this past year with an injury, he was emerging as one of the top pass catchers in the league. He made the Pro Bowl and led the league in touchdowns in 2019. His value here was too good to pass up given the eventual need at WR. In addition to the need, there’s no doubt Ben Roethlisberger would love throwing to the big bodied 6’4” Golladay.
(R3, P105) – The actual pick: RB James Conner
The new pick: S Eddie Jackson (R4, P112)
Well, with Kamara being taken in the previous round, there isn’t an immediate need for another RB with their second pick of round 3. So let’s replace the now-missing defensive back with Alabama free safety, Eddie Jackson. He reminds me of another Alabama free safety (any ideas?) in the sense he seems to always be around the football. He’s already made 2 Pro Bowls and has a First Team All-Pro Selection. Jackson is a dynamic playmaker who has asserted himself as one of the best safeties in the league. He’s only been around for 4 seasons, but he’s been good enough to already be named one of the Top 100 Greatest Bears of All Time.
(R4, P135) – The actual pick: QB Josh Dobbs
The new pick: TE George Kittle (R5, P146)
An immediate no brainer here. Josh, we love ya, man. You’re a great person, leader, teammate, and an exciting football player. But George Kittle is rapidly becoming one of the most prolific players ever at a position the Steelers have struggled with mightily since Heath Miller retired. The fact he fell to 146 makes him the steal of the draft. Kittle already got himself a couple of Pro Bowls and a Second Team All-Pro Selection. And up until a little over a month ago, he held the NFL record for receiving yards in a season for a tight end. Kittle is as explosive as they come. Adding him to an arsenal with Kenny Golladay and Alvin Kamara would’ve made Pittsburgh’s offense unstoppable. He would’ve provided significantly more value than a backup QB who was already released once.
(R5, P173) – The actual pick: DB Brian Allen
The new pick: RB Aaron Jones (R5, P182)
Okay. I’ll double dip here. And although RB usually isn’t a position you’d see taken twice, Aaron Jones’ value here is just too good to pass up. A lethal 1-2 punch of he and Kamara would be something you think you’d only seen in Madden. But again, since we have hindsight on our side, we can make it happen. Jones was the co-touchdown leader in 2019 and followed it up with a Pro Bowl campaign this past season. He’s solidified himself as a top 10 RB and was a steal towards the end of round 5. The Steelers didn’t succeed with their pick. Brian Allen was a project that never panned out. He’s bounced around to a couple different teams since being released by the Steelers.
(R6, P213) – The actual pick: LS Colin Holba
The new pick: TE Robert Tonyan (Undrafted)
Oops. I double dipped again. However with the Steelers wasting this pick in real life anyways, I figured it didn’t matter to take on one of the better undrafted players from this class. I was leaning towards WR Keelan Cole, but because of the Steelers struggle to find TE’s as I noted earlier, I gave them another solid one with Robert Tonyan. This duo of he and Kittle are not only great friends, but they would’ve given the Steelers security and explosiveness at the position for years to come. Tonyan had a breakout year in 2020 where he scored 11 touchdowns. He’d be arguably the best TE2 in the league if partnered with Kittle.
(R7, P248) – The actual pick: OLB Keion Adams
The new pick: FB Patrick Ricard (Undrafted)
Multiple Pro Bowls? Check. (Rare) Versatility to play both offense and defense? Check. Ricard would’ve been a great pick for any team in the 7th round. However he went undrafted and landed in Baltimore. I won’t let that happen here. In this re-draft, the Steelers get an elite fullback to block for their elite RB duo. He can also play some defensive line if need be. A luxury not needed, but definitely valuable.
So that’s how I think the re-draft would shake down for Pittsburgh. But now I’d love to hear from you! What changes would you make with what we now know about these players? Comment below!